I’m Corinne Brown, a 61year old retired geography teacher. I have been fortunate to have had a garden to play in all my childhood and a garden to tend all my married life (ruby wedding this summer). My husband is the grass cutter, hedge trimmer and maintenance man whilst I am the sower, planter, weeder and harvester.
Our garden is a larger than average suburban garden surrounded by hedges and fences. Its many features have changed throughout the 28 years we have lived here. But we have always had a large lawn for the children and now grandchildren to play on with their ball games, play equipment, tents etc. When the children were teenagers we had a large fish pond with beautiful water lilies and surrounded by bog plants. But that was soon filled in once grandchildren arrived. This area is now the strawberry patch full of raised beds and containers. As a working parent the flower beds were usually easy to look after perennials with self seeding annuals. Vegetables and fruit have been grown most years but as teachers we were often away for most of August just when the runner beans or strawberries should have been harvested. Now we are retired we can go away once the crops have been picked and we have more time to tend to a wider range of crops. Vegetables are grown along one side of the plot along with fruit bushes and trees. As a vegetarian for over 30 years I try to grow a range of fruits, vegetables and herbs. There is an old greenhouse that has been patched up with some new glass panes after a very windy night last January and a newer cold frame which is handy for growing salad crops and hardening off plants from the greenhouse. The patio is away from the house just next to the green house. It is a quiet sheltered spot for relaxing in, eating alfresco and looking out on to the garden and planning what to do next. The garden gives hours of pleasure.
I live in Chester-le-Street, a town in Co Durham. Here in the north-east of England most gardening challenges have come from the weather. The growing season is shorter compared with towns further south. I have learned not to plant out too soon and to wait for the soil to feel warm. However more recently we have had extremes of weather. Three winters ago the snow was very deep and slow to go and unfortunately rabbits from the nearby railway embankment came into the garden searching for food. They ate the bark around most of the apple, pear and plum trees causing the trees to die. We have since replaced the trees and added tree protectors.
One lucky aspect of our location is that we have not been affected by water shortages. Last year we had terrific floods and saw the lawn transform into a pond of water. Many people said the extra rain was damaging their crops but we found our flowers, lawn, runner beans, cabbages and strawberries thrived on the extra water. The garden is fortunate to have very fertile loamy soil. Apart from adding compost from two compost bins and rich leaf mould from the beech hedge we do not have to add fertiliser to our borders and beds. This helps us to garden in a sustainable way and provides us with organic fruit and vegetables.
Most of my inspiration for gardening ideas comes from looking at other people’s gardens when out walking. For example when exploring the Pennines last Summer I saw beautiful delicate red astrantia flowers in a cottage garden and now I have them growing in mine. At the moment I am growing tall purple Verbena from seed because it looked stunning in the flower beds at Alnwick Gardens.
Since joining the Thompson & Morgan customer trial panel I have been introduced to new challenges and ideas. Previously I have always grown flowers from seed but since trialling the plug plants I have discovered another way to overcome our shorter growing season. I have been amazed how quickly the tiniest plugs can grow into strong plants with flower buds in such a short time. Also containers and hanging baskets have seldom been on my gardening to do list because they usually were dead when we returned from our August holiday. But now my aim this summer is to make over my patio with a range of containers and hanging baskets.